It had to come at some point, and that point was yesterday as Leeds United suffered their first defeat of the season under Marcelo Bielsa.
In essence it was a bad day at the office for the Whites who conceded two early, sloppy goals and then watched Birmingham City maul and spoil like a boxer well ahead on points and entering the ‘Championship rounds’.
Leeds’ BielsaBall game involves the Whites hogging possession, starving the opposition of both ball and chances and then quickly breaking away and punishing them. However, the early phases of Birmingham’s game nullified these strengths, their early pressing forcing the West Yorkshire side into what are becoming uncharacteristic mistakes.
It was from two of these mistakes that former Leeds boss Garry Monk’s Birmingham side were able to profit. Laxness in defence allowed energetic striker Che Adams (8′ and 29′) to put the Blues into a 2-0 half-time lead that quietened the 34,000+ Elland Road crowd.
Those two shots-to-goals were part of just four Birmingham attempts on goal, two of their three attempts on target. Against this, Leeds United had 17 pot-shots at goal, five on target and one goal, as a testament to their 71.3%-to-28.7% possession advantage.
Birmingham sat back on their advantage, retreating into a protective shell, like a reluctant tortoise, and wasting time, like a student knowing that a visit to the headmaster’s office was on the cards. They were briefly scared as the game dribbled out when Gjanni Alioski smashed a left-footed shot (85′) past Lee Camp in the visitor’s goal.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) September 23, 2018
Birmingham’s time-wasting tactics nearly came back to haunt them, with referee Peter Bankes adding on eight minutes over the regulation 90. However, despite a late flurry from the home side, Birmingham City were able to leave Elland Road victorious, a first win of the season under their belt.
That left Leeds United fans to sit contemplating a first defeat of the season, although the Whites do still sit at the top of the table on goal difference over Middlesbrough. However, despite bemoaning the negativity of Birmingham’s game, and the performance of referee Bankes, there is a lot for Leeds fans to gain from yesterday.
They out-possessed Birmingham massively 71.3%-to-28.7% and this led to a number of chances that would likely have been tucked away with more composure. Of course, 2-0 and chasing the game would impact on the way the Whites would go at the rest of the game, a game that Marcelo Bielsa changed by bringing off Kalvin Phillips and introducing Stuart Dallas into a more attacking line-up.
Like I said earlier, it was a bad day at the office for Leeds United and their fans, a day when if they hadn’t been as sloppy in the opening exchanges then there’d be every chance that they might have imposed themselves like they did against Preston North End in midweek.
BielsaBall may be deflated after yesterday’s reverse, but it is by no means burst. The Whites go again on Friday when they travel to South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday and another game under the Friday night lights of the Sky Sport cameras.